Vanity Fair, William Thackeray

★★★★★

Full of sarcastic wit and satirical humour, Vanity Fair is a scathing social commentary that skewers the values of shallow, class-obsessed Victorian society. Thackeray’s classic novel follows the selfish and manipulative Becky Sharp, orphaned at a young age with little inheritance left to her by her alcoholic artist father, and determined to establish her place among the wealthy elite of Victorian society. Her companion Amelia Sedley is the polar opposite of Becky – despite being innocent and naïve, her privileged background ensures that her future is fairly secure.

The novel charts the lives and relationships of these two very different heroines over the span of 20 years as their stories intertwine and change dramatically, for better and for worse. Along the way we encounter other interesting characters, such as the arrogant George Osborne, whom Amelia longs for, and the awkward but benevolent Dobbin, secretly in love with Amelia.

Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, Vanity Fair explores the greed of human ambition through Thackeray’s combination of irony, pathos and sadness, ultimately creating an epic and profound novel about the nature of humankind.

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